Is there really life after death? Virtually every worldview insists that there is. Most people, when asked if they believe there is life after death, say, “Yes.” Is there any evidence or is it just something that we want to assume because we have a desire to live forever?
First of all, there is no materialistic evidence that suggests existence continues after the death of the physical body. I must say this while granting that materialistic evidence is limited to what the senses can undeniably detect. In this, the scientific method is beneficial but limited in what it can do. It cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, of love, of knowledge, of ghosts, of demons, of the mind, of thought (and thought is a prerequisite for the scientific method), or of the afterlife. It is noteworthy that though not proven, scientific study (particularly at Southampton University over a four year period of time) seems to indicate that human consciousness continues for at least three minutes after clinical death. Subjects who regained life after being declared dead described specific details about what was going on in the room where their heart had stopped beating.
There is a need, though, for philosophical inquiry. When we ask a philosophical question, we don’t usually ask for an absolute answer. Instead we ask, “Is it more or less reasonable for me to believe that there is an afterlife?” To do this, I will refer to the Empirical Argument because I find it to be the most beneficial:
- Innate human desire corresponds to necessity.
- I hunger because I need to eat.
- Every person has an innate desire to live forever.
- This can be observed through history.
- The innate desire to live forever corresponds to necessity.
- It is more reasonable than not to believe in an afterlife.
- Innate human desire corresponds to necessity.
Someone disagreeing with this logical argument may question the second premise. To that person, I might ask, “Do you have a desire to continue living?” If you have a desire to continue living, do you imagine that you will ever not have that desire? If the answer is no, I can deduce that you have an innate desire to live forever. If you desire to die, however, I might ask, “What do you hope your death will accomplish?” If you want to end some kind of physical decay or pain or if you wish to end emotional pain, then I can induce that your desire is to exist free from pain, not to cease all existence. If you wish to teach someone a lesson by your death, then I can induce that your desire is to affect change (which is a way to live on), not to die. Either way, death is a means to an end and not the end in itself. This does not extinguish the innate desire to live forever but makes that desire more evident. Suicide, then, doesn’t quite work and is a term that is revealed to be oxymoronic in nature. The paradox is this: suicide, though it may be glorified by some groups, always has the opposite long-term effect than is hoped for.
Since this is the case (that it is more reasonable to believe in an afterlife than not), it is more reasonable for us to live while assuming that there will be an afterlife of some kind. Scripture is clear about the existence of an afterlife. So, for those who believe in Scripture, there is some revelation to lean on concerning that afterlife. My conviction is that the Scriptures are inherent, that Jesus is God, and that Scripture was given to benefit us in this life. So, I want to ask of the Scriptures: Do we continue to exist after bodily death?
Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out — those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.
When Jesus speaks, His conviction is clear. Not only is there continued existence, but people will experience either judgment or life depending on what they have done (either good things or bad things). We’ve been discovering what that means as we walk through Romans on Sunday mornings. Since it is impossible for someone only to do good things, everyone is destined for an afterlife of judgment. Jesus makes evident that He is the only bread of life in the next chapter (6:35-40). Merely trying to keep moral rules only leads to judgment. Christ must deliver the person to life. This is meant to draw us to repentance and trust in Christ. Only in Christ can we experience the resurrection of life.
This being stated, we will spend the remainder of our study through the coming weeks considering what Heaven and Hell are like and what that means for our life on this earth.
- We are created in the image of an eternal God. What might this reveal about the nature of our existence?
- There are some who believe that God will annihilate all those who go to Hell. Is this thought consistent with God’s character or must all those created in God’s image exist everlastingly? Remember that God cannot deny Himself.
- If there is an afterlife, there are high stakes. We should not treat this as a trivial matter. There are real, everlasting consequences.